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Higher Education 18:353-360 (1989) 9 Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht - Printed in the Netherlands

Review article

Leadership and higher education

ROBIN MIDDLEHURST

Research Officer for Leadership Development in Universities, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK

James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner (1987). The Leadership Challenge: How to Get Extraordinary Things Done in Organizations. San Francisco: JosseyBass 362 pp. s Hardback.

Introduction
The Leadership Challenge is readable, coherent and very largely convincing. It is aimed at practioners, managers and non-managers, who may be interested in enhancing their leadership capabilities. Judging by the bulging management bookshelves in airports, railway stations and in more sophisticated bookshops, this is a rapidly expanding market. In Britain it is still one where leadership titles are under-represented both among works of the scholarly and "quick fix" variety. This perhaps reflects some cultural discomfort with the concept. Contrastingly, in the United States, the last decade has seen an upsurge of interest in leadership (Burns, 1978; Bass, 1985; Bennis & Nanus, 1985; Peters and Austin, 1986; Hitt, 1988). The reasons for this are stated with force by Peters in his foreword to Kouzes and Posner's book: "low productivity and questionable quality and service across the board.., compounded in our bigger firms by an inability to act fast" plus "the already unprecedented and accelerating pace of change." Byrd (1987) expands on the causes of current turbulence in the American corporate world: "dramatic and sometimes unpredictable competition, continuation of the technological race, the information explosion, transformation of a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based economy, an increasingly heterogeneous workforce, the rise of a new hero, the entrepreneur..." This litany of economic and social change is no less familiar in Britain. If these are indeed the reasons which necessitate and promote the study and practice of leadership (and there is considerable

354 agreement concerning the association between leadership and "change": Adair (1968, 1983); Kanter (1983); Kouzes and Posner, pp. 37-38) - our discomfort with the concept will need to be overcome. The present political climate in Britain is likely to support such efforts.

General reactions The following comments about The Leadership Challenge are made in relation to a review of work in the leadership field. Such work is regarded as having general application in a variety of organisational settings. Through their wealth of practical suggestions, exercises and examples of leadership behaviour in many fields and at many levels in organisations, Kouzes and Posner have created a useful handbook for practitioners. Their work should, however, also attract the interest of scholars in the field since it not only represents the culmination of an in-depth study staged over four years, but includes reference to a considerable amount of other leadership research. Data were collected initially from over 1,000 middle and senior managers by means of open-ended questionnaires and interviews. The data centred upon managers' perceptions of their "personal best" experiences of leading (Appendix A, pp. 303-308). A variety of organisations including institutions of higher education, were represented in the sample. Analysis of the data led the authors to develop a model of leadership which was then tested through their "Leadership Practices Inventory" (Appendix B, pp. 309-322) in order to measure the behaviours isolated. Finally, over 3,000 managers and their subordinates were asked to assess the extent to which the managers studied used the identified practices. The study - which is concerned with "the behavioural side of getting others to want to achieve exceptional results" (p. 233) - rests on a definition of leadership which was clearly enunciated by Vance Packard over twenty-five years ago: "Leadership appears to be the art of getting others to want to do something that you are convinced should be done" (The Pyramid Climbers, 1962, p. 170). It is a definition which can also be found in the pages of recent autobiographical reflections on leadership (Harvey-Jones, 1988; Kay, 1985) and in historical analyses of leadership (Burns, 1978; and Adair - Great Leadership - forthcoming). The book is structured around a discussion of the five practices identified by Kouzes and Posner as being common to most extraordinary leadership achievements: Challenging the Process; Inspiring a Shared Vision; Enabling Others to Act; Modeling the Way; Encouraging the Heart. These practices are explored further by illustrating the "ten behavioural commitments" by which

355 they were supported in the personal best leadership cases. The first two chapters lay the foundations for the subequent discussion: "Knowing What Leadership Is Really About" (Chapter 1) and "What Followers Expect of Their Leaders: Knowing the Other Half of the Story" (Chapter 2). As the authors observe, the structure of the book might lead one to expect that the practice of leadership involves following a series of behaviours in sequence. Clearly the reality is a more dynamic, iterative process~ In: my view, the book is of interest for a number of reasons. Firstly, it tackles head-on the substantive and controversial issues in the study of leadership yet avoids becoming entrapped in the abstract theorising that makes the subjects area so complex and often of such limited value to practitioners. The authors argue, cogently supported by a host of examples, that leadership exists and can be observed and dissected (pp. 25-26, p. 135, p. 264). Their arguments challenge such disbelievers as Mumford (1987) and others. In support of their case they marshal a rich array of research work in related areas: on innovation (Kanter, 1983), on co-operation versus competition in working groups (Tjosvold, 1986), (Johnson et al, 1981), on trust and reciprocity (Boss, 1978; Cialdini, 1984), on power (Chapter 8). Kouzes and Posner face the ubiquitous question, "Are leaders born or made?" and present arguments to support both positions (pp. 290-302). In concluding that leadership can be learned(although some candidates are clearly more likely to show an aptitude than others), they present their own findings concerning the most effective means of leadership development (pp. 282-290, p. 298-302). These suggest "three major categories of opportunities for learning to lead.., trial and error, people, and education, in that order of importance". They are supported in other studies (McCauley, 1986; Zemke, 1985). The evidence presented should provoke a re-examination of current training provision in the field - although it needs to be remembered that programmes specifically aimed at leadership development are still in their infancy outside the armed forces. Secondly, The Leadership Challenge is important because it draws attention to two oft-neglected areas in the study of leadership: the inter-relationship of "leadership" and "followership"; and the manifestation of leadership at many different levels in the organisation (pp. 295-298). "Followers determine whether someone possesses leadership qualities.., leadership is in the eye of the follower". The authors challenge the assumption that leadership is the prerogative of top management - or of men: "Leadership, we concluded, is not the private preserve of a few charismatic men and women. It is a process ordinary managers use when they are bringing forth the best from themselves and others." Thirdly, Kouzes and Posner examine the ethical dimension of leadership. They argue that leadership practices are in themselves amoral but that individ-

356 ual use of such practices may be moral or immoral. Not unnaturally, following Gardner (1987), they encourage four moral goals of leadership: i) releasing human potential; ii) balancing the needs of the individual and the community; iii) defending the fundamental values of the community; iv) instilling in individuals a sense of initiative and responsibility. Throughout the book the authors emphasize the centrality of values in leadership. This has become a common theme in much recent literature in the field, perhaps for the reasons outlined by Mant (1986): "Since 1973 many organisations have reduced all values to a simple cost-benefit calculation. The toughness was necessary, but the more astute executives are realising that it isn't enough for the future we face." Kouzes and Posner found in their earlier research that clearly articulated personal values on the part of senior management had significant effects on organisational effectiveness. These findings are supported by other researchers (Caldwell, 1984) who demonstrate that while companies may have different sets of values, the more effective companies share three qualities: "clarity, consensus and intensity about their core organisational values." Perhaps the most important message contained in the book in relation to values is the need ~for consistency between word and deed in the practice of leadership: "Leaders provide the standard by which other people in the organization calibrate their own choices and behaviours. In order to set an example, leaders must know their values and live them". (p. 190) Furthermore: "Credibility of action is the single most significant determinant of whether a leader will be followed over time." (p. xvii) Fourthly, Kouzes and Posner attempt to expose common leadership myths and to differentiate between leadership and traditional management doctrine. In identifying the etymology of the two words, they argue that although both are essential to making social systems work, the roles contained in each are different. Where management is concerned with system maintenance and measures to control organization processes, leadership is associated with challenging the status quo and with enabling (or empowering) others to act through a sharing of information, support and initiative. Leadership may involve emotion and has been nicely described by the authors as "disciplined passion" (p. xvii). They portray the essential difference as follows: " I f there is a clear distinction between the process of managing and the process of leading, it is the distinction between getting others to do and getting others to want to do." Finally, there are inevitably some reservations about the book although they are outweighed by the preceding positive reactions. The style, though lucid and supported by both reasoned argument and research evidence, is still somewhat doctrinaire. It shares with many other

357 books in the field, a crusading tone which suggests that leadership is the modern elixir of organisational life. There is certainly (Burgoyne, 1988) a need to redress the balance from an emphasis on "hard systems" (rules, procedures, incentives, control) as the means to effective organisational performance to an affirmation of the necessity for attention towards "soft systems" (values, culture, leadership). There is also a need to explode the mystique surrounding the concept of leadership so that it can be more widely practised and more fully developed. However, a more complete picture which included reference to the need for both hard and soft systems as a prerequisite for organisational success would perhaps be more convincing to a sceptical reader. The content of the book could have been expanded (or perhaps this is an argument for an extension of the research) by a comparative study of the same managers' "personal worst cases". Analysis of the trials - and particularly errors - involved in case studies of leadership practice would both further the development of leadership theory and be more instructive to those struggling with its implementation. Such an analysis could assist in the evolution of a new conceptual framework for leadership which takes account of past theories and accommodates some of the paradoxes and contradictions still prevalent in this subject area. This would be useful as a guide to thinking about leadership for scholars and practitioners alike.

Relevance to higher education


To turn now to the relevance of Kouzes and Posner's book to leadership in higher education. The following remarks are made on the basis of work in the field of leadership and its development in British universities (Middlehurst, 1987). 1981 may be described as a watershed in the history of British university management. It heralded the arrival of "change and uncertainty" in the external and internal environment of universities and the end of a period of expansion and relative stability. It signalled government determination to implant commercial credos of efficiency, relevance and value-for-money into the aims of university management. The publication and implementation of the "Jarratt Report" (Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, 1985) merely confirmed and guided a trend that was already taking place in universities such as Salford or Aston. In public sector higher education similar signposts may be found in the National Advisory Board Report (1987), "Management for a Purpose", and in the government White Paper on "Higher Education - Meeting the Challenge" (1987). Although the timing may be different, evidence from other countries suggests that similar changes in

358 management attitudes and practice are also taking place in their higher education systems (Taylor, 1987). The new environment of the 1980s has drawn attention to academic management structures and procedures more forcibly than in previous decades. It has rekindled discussion about leadership, its relationship to management and the relevance of industrial or commercial models to higher education (as training programmes for academic "managers" in many OECD countries indicate). The Leadership Challenge will provide food for thought in this continuing debate. The book is relevant because leadership has always been part of higher education's mission either at the macro level of institutions or at the micro level of individual teachers and researchers. Today's turbulent climate merely served to accentuate its importance and to include the managerial arena in its focus. Kouzes and Posner provide varied examples of leadership practice drawn from within universities (pp. 189-190, p. 223, p. 255, pp. 267-270). These include instances of setting an example, improving communication, recognising contributions and encouraging by celebrating. The contexts are equally varied, from president and institution: "The leader's job is to energetically mirror back to the institution how it best thinks of itself" (Kennedy, president of Stanford) through dean and faculty to professor and students: "One of our university colleagues takes his highest performing students each term out for lunch and bowling to show his appreciation". At a general level, there are numerous ideas and observations of relevance to higher education, for example: the emphasis on trust and sharing of information (pp. 150-152), the encouragement to take risks and to foster "psychological hardiness" to cope with stress (pp. 65-70), the importance of having "insight and outsight" when shaping a vision for the future (p. 57-63), the relationship of leadership to learning (p. 277-302), the need to emphasise long-term goals, imagination and "possibility" rather than "probability" thinking (p. 83-90). Throughout, the ideas and observations are supported by research evidence and practical suggestions to take the reader forward. Kouzes and Posner's study illustrates some of the ingredients needed to establish a climate in which leadership may flourish. Perhaps surprisingly to some, it is apparent that many of these ingredients are already present (if under-exploited) in the culture of higher education institutions; they therefore possess certain advantages over other organisations in this respect. Their traditions of collegiality, consensus decision-making, collaborative research and the nature of academic work as intrinsically motivating and challenging may succeed in promoting these organisations as models for the future (see Handy, 1986). They should be wary of adopting management practices based on tight hierarchies and controls which are regarded as outdated, inefficient

359 and increasingly subject to criticism in other organisations. As Harvey-Jones (1987) argues on the basis of experience as chief executive of ICI and from his perspective as Chancellor of the University of Bradford: "I know for sure that large organisations work best with massive decentralisation, with delegation of the power to get things done, with clarity of aim and responsibility, and with real effort to train and capture the hearts and minds of people in the system." Kouzes and Posner's study lends support to this view. The challenge in academe will be to incorporate management procedures which streamline the running of the institution and its constituent parts while maximising the potential for "extraordinary performance" at all levels. This demands a continuation of the best practices of "leadership by persuasion" which seek to balance the need for individual autonomy with its concomitant creative potential against collective responsibility for the outcomes of higher education. The authors present some of the results of the re-evaluation of organisational effectiveness which is taking place now in a number of fields. They pose solutions in many areas which are also of concern to higher education: approaches to managing change, to handling conflict, to fostering and supporting innovation, to raising morale and levels of performance. The message of the book - that good leadership can and does make a difference to the achievement of exceptional performance - is echoed in writings referring specifically to the academic context (Moses, 1985; Astin and Scherrin, 1983; Fisher and Tack (ed.), 1988). By choosing only what is best from commercial or industrial contexts and filtering these contributions through academic theory and practice it should be possible to create new models of structure and process which will be appropriate for tomorrow's world. The Leadership Challenge reports much of what has been found to be "best" in a number of settings - not least academe. The acid test will be whether the sound advice presented is swiftly transferred to common practice.

Acknowledgements
The following people have kindly assisted by commenting on this article: Professor T. Becher, University of Sussex; Professor L.. Elton, University of Surrey; Dr. P. Gardiner, University of Surrey; and Mr. P. Helm, University of Liverpool.

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